Central Ajax moved to their ground, Ajax Park, in 1989. The pitch is part of a 20 acre site that boasts a myriad of pitches for all ages,. I have to say, when you pull off Hampton Road onto the service road that leads the clubhouse, it's an impressive sight.
The main pitch is at the far end of the site well back from Hampton Road. There is a large car park and a club house block adjacent to the car park. The pitch is raised above clubhouse and is accessed up a grass bank. There are two dugouts on the far side of the pitch, one of which has the Central Ajax logo imprinted on the back wall. This of course is the home dugout. The opposite side, which is also raised above the adjacent small-sided pitches by a grass bank, is cordoned of by a respect barrier for spectators. One thing to note, as the ground is raised above the level of the surrounding pitches, it is very much open to the elements and, on a day like Saturday, the wind can make it a cold place to watch football. Warp up warm. The pitch itself looked to be pretty much flat and in good condition.
Central Ajax have been around since 1978 and, when you know the year of their foundation, you can guess that part of their name is taken from the world famous Ajax Amsterdam who, although probably just past their peak at that time, had been the best team in Europe just a few years earlier. Although the like of Johan Cruyff, Johan Neeskens and Johnny Rep had already left by 1978, they could still boast a very strong squad including the like of Ruud Krol, Frank Arnesen and Soren Lerby. The Central part of the clubs name comes from their first home, the pitches at Central Hospital in Hatton, just outside Warwick.
This was a match up between fifth (Central Ajax) and third (Coventrians). Earlier in the season Ajax had won 3-1 at The Colliery Sports Ground with two goals from Shaye Eden and one from Jordan Lewis. Luke Wilson scoring for Coventrians. That had also been the score when the sides met in the truncated season the year before. The last time the sides had met at Ajax Park had seen Ajax win 1-0 with Jordan Lewis scoring the winner.
The game kicked off with the home side facing into the biting wind. The blustery conditions were clearly influencing the game. Ajax were finding it quite difficult to press forward not only because the wind was preventing playing the ball above head height but also because their opponents were trying to use the conditions to their advantage meaning that the home defence was constantly on alert for the long ball over the top of them. Of course, it was also difficult for Coventrians to judge their forward passes especially when the wind took hold of the ball giving their forwards little chance of reaching passes. To add to this, there were quite a few tasty challenges going in early on. It was clear that the referee was going to have his hands full.
Just under 25 minutes in, after soaking up a fair bit of Coventrians pressure, Ajax managed to take advantage of a drop in the wind to press forward themselves. Matt Green came close with a free-kick that went narrowly wide. At this point it looked as if the home team had weathered the worst of the conditions and were probably feeling quite pleased to be heading towards the break all-square. If that was the case then they were to have a rude awakening. With just under 10 minutes to half-time Coventrians launched a break down their right flank. The cross went towards the back post where it was nicely cushioned back into the path of Liam Connolly who stroked the ball past Sean Wilson to make it 0-1.
Even at 1-0 down, playing into the wind, Ajax would probably have been relatively happy. However, they wouldn't have counted on Coventrians hitting them twice in two minutes, but that is exactly hat happened. There were 39 minutes on the clock when the visitor's Jacob Dumbleton got free on the right and tried his luck from the edge of the box. His effort was half cleared by the defence but fell into the path of the Jordan Brandish. His scuffed shot dropped perfectly at the feet of Connolly, who gleefully slotted home his second of the game. 0-2
HT Central Ajax 0 Coventrians 2. Even taking into account the advantage of the conditions being in their favour it's fair to say that Coventrians deserve to be ahead at the break. They looked the more dangerous side. Maybe two-nil slightly flattered, but Ajax certainly had work to do in the second half.
As with the first half, there were prisoners being taken with the tackling and the game was broken up by fairly frequent stoppages for minor injuries and niggles. Coventrians still looked a threat when they pushed forward and Anthony Allen came close to extending their lead when he fired just over just after the hour mark.
With a little under 20 minutes remaining Coventrians were reduced to 10 men after their Keiron Butler earned a sin bin for comments made to the referee after yet another clash in midfield left one of his teammates in a heap. However, with their captain dropping back into central defence, the visitors still looked as if they were going to hold on and, despite being a man light, were still dangerous when breaking, especially on the right side. Then the weight of number swung the other way. Sin bin complete, Coventrians were back to a full complement but Ajax went down to ten when, after making all substitutions, Foley went off with a nasty looking injury.
As we went into added time, Ajax ploughed forward looking for the equaliser. One last ditch effort with even keeper Sean Wilson being sent up field. maybe it was his presence in the area that caused the mad scramble as the ball pin-balled around the Coventrians six-yard box before, finally, Jordan Lewis managed to nudge the ball over the line. 2-2. What a finish to the game, and cue wild celebrations from the home team and bench.
FT Central Ajax 2 Coventrians 2. The conditions were not ideal by any means but both sides did well to deal with them. If I'm honest, over the entire game, I thought Coventrians edged it. However, it was a very close game and Ajax certainly showed a hell of a lot of determination to keep going to the very end of the game. The result made no difference to the league position of either club, although AFC Birmingham's win at Castle Vale saw them draw level on points with Central Ajax. The sides meet in Birmingam next weekend. Meanwhile Coventrians face a trip to Birmingham as they face bottom side Bartley Reds at The Tally Ho ground.
Central Ajax: Wilson, Kuster, Burgess, Dyde, Jeffries, Dyke(c), Eden, Green, Lewis, Stevens, Foley. Subs: Morrish, Monthgomery, Nicholson, Layton, Randall
Coventrians: J.Connolly, Allen, Hassan, Hume, Butler, Hall, L.Connolly, Kearns, Brandish, Donaldson(c), Dumbleton. Subs: Middleton, Dixon, Parris-Jones, O'Neil, Heeley
Ground Number: 307